The revision process necessitates heartless wielding of red pens and repeated pressing of the delete key. Hell, whole scenes have landed in the trashcan. It’s the nature of shaping a novel from the story you wanted to write to the one it’s supposed to be. Usually, that means a lot of your first draft is scrapped and most remaining scenes are revised to the point they’re unrecognizable.
Yet, in Breaking Orbit, one scene has survived largely intact from the very beginning. In fact, the revisions made to it have mostly been to amplify and expand upon what was already happening.
The scene is commonly referred to as “the hair dye scene.” The protagonist, Remy, helps Jake, her romantic interest, die his hair in a hotel bathroom one night. The scene is rife with sexual tension and emotional intimacy. It’s the catalyst for them finally getting together after a solid month of working at their friendship and flirting. It’s one of my favorite scenes, and I always enjoy working on making it the best it can be.
I thought I’d treat you to a little behind the scenes look at some of my favorite moments in this scene as it exists in draft 9.
Jake put a finger to his lips, before leading her into the bathroom. He set the bag on the counter and unloaded it.
“Peanut M&Ms?” Remy asked, eyeing the jumbo-sized bag.
“It’s always good to have snacks.” He gave her a smile before unpacking the contents of the hair dye box labeled Blue Envy.
The color blue and the name of the hair dye are kind of like Easter eggs I’ve thrown in (I guess they’re not Easter eggs anymore if I’ve pointed them out LOL).
Blue is a color commonly associated with trust. Jake is the most trustworthy and authentic character in the novel, so he’s often associated with the color blue–blue hair, blue comforter on his bed. Other characters who reflect that trustworthiness usually have something blue, such as Delia’s blue Prius.
“Blue Envy” is the name of the hair dye. It’s meant to poke at the love triangle of sorts between Jake, Delia, and Grayson. It’s also an actual name of a blue-colored hair dye.
Platonic Versus Romantic
People called themselves friends all the time and didn’t mean it. There was a fine line between platonic and romantic, as if friendship was the waiting room for romance.
This is probably is one of my favorite lines I’ve written. While Jake and Remy’s friendship is mostly a springboard/ foundation for their romantic relationship, there are other platonic relationships in this novel that aren’t just the beginning of a romance. Jake’s friendships with Teagan and Delia are ones that at this point have no place for romance. That idea of a guy and a girl only ever being friends without any romantic feelings between them is actually what led to me writing a companion novel called Teagan & Jake.
Person Versus Celebrity
“I guess I never understood why anybody should have a picture of me walking down a street with someone I love.” He exhaled slowly. “It’s not even like that picture could capture the feelings of that moment anyway.” His eyes crinkled at the memory. He balled his fist.
“Confession time,” she said, placing a hand over his fist. “I’ve scrolled through all those pictures of you and Delia.” His hand tensed beneath hers. “But it was before we were friends, before we met on the airplane, before you were a real person to me.” His hand relaxed beneath hers, un-balling so that hers seemed tiny and fragile resting on top of his—an island in an ocean. She gave it a pat before moving away.
“Everyone’s a real person, you know.” He glanced at her.
This moment is important for two reasons: 1) the action surrounding their hands, especially Jake’s, and 2) the idea of celebrity versus real people.
Hands, especially Jake’s are discussed rather frequently. Not in a fetishized way (I hope). It has more to do with Jake being a drummer and his hands always being beat up. Also, the novel deals with sexual assault and abuse. Hands and touching play a big role in physical intimacy, so I think it just naturally came up.
The novel deals a lot with identity, particularly who a person is in different settings. Remy’s pulled into a web of celebrities and deception, and her own identity and level of celebrity changes over the course of the novel. There’s a lot of secrets and wrong impressions of people, from characters hiding their sexual orientation to using a private alias on Twitter to sext with fan girls. I’m also fascinated by the point where someone stops being a person and becomes a celebrity and how that changes how people view and treat them.
The stubble on his chin grazed her forehead, his breath moving the loose strands of her hair.
This is probably one of my favorite sentences in the scene. I really enjoyed zeroing in on all the tiny details of their intimacy in this scene. Often, I feel my strength is in dialogue, not actions or description. I can be pretty sparse with description at times. But I really loved getting to zoom in on the tiniest bits of this moment.
They held each other tightly, Remy inhaling the scent of laundry detergent and his musky cologne. It was like breathing in a lullaby.
In earlier drafts, critiquers really loved this bit. It seemed to give everyone the good kind of chills. The line’s popularity surprised me, but gave me a confidence boost. Now, I’m not sure it’s the best of that scene or the whole novel. I do like it. Scent plays a huge role in our lives from sexual attraction to memory. It’s also a sense that seems to go underutilized in a lot of writing I’ve read.
So those are some of my favorite bits and pieces. I don’t claim them to be the greatest assembly of words ever (this is why revision exists, after all), but I think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on a scene that’s survived from the beginning and only become fonder to me as I continue to work with it and the characters inhabiting it.